The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 allows ship owners to protect their assets by filing a complaint to limit their liability for a mishap at sea. Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that vessel owners may file a lawsuit to restrict liability to an amount not exceeding the value of the vessel involved in the accident.
If you abandoned the ship, you may describe its location and recovery costs. The stated value may reflect the remaining wreckage. You may also assert your reasoning for why the court should limit your liability or exonerate you.
How and when do I file a civil complaint to limit my liability?
You must file your complaint within six months after receiving written notice of a harmed party’s damages claim. Your complaint must include information about the voyage during which the accident occurred, such as its date, time and any liens related to the journey.
As noted by The New Orleans Advocate, the Limitation of Liability Act requires owners to include financial figures stating the vessel’s worth and to deposit funds of the same amount with the court. The funds may go toward paying damages to parties filing personal injury or death claims.
Must I publish a public notice of my complaint?
After filing your complaint, the court notifies parties who have filed claims against your ship. A judge may also order you to publish a notice in a newspaper at least once a week for four consecutive weeks. You must mail copies of the published notices to all parties with claims against your vessel.
Maritime disasters could result in severe loss or injuries. Shipowners, however, may reduce accountability for damages under the Limitation of Liability Act. If the court finds in your favor, harmed parties may not file claims to recover more than your vessel’s value after the accident.